The merits of renaming Warwickshire as “Birmingham Bears” for Twenty20 cricket will be re-evaluated at the end of next season – and perhaps before then.
Councillor Ian Ward, deputy leader of Birmingham City Council, admits he has been surprised by the hostile reaction from many Warwickshire followers to the proposed change.
In proper cricket – the county championship and 50-over tournament – Warwickshire will continue to play under the name they have used since 1882.
That name embraces their many followers outside the Second City, not least in the current county of Warwickshire where the club’s origins heavily lie – as does the provenance of the ursine connection (the Bear and Ragged Staff).
And sacrificing the county name, even just for T20, has angered many of the club’s supporters.
“I must admit I hadn’t expected this furore,” Coun Ward said.
“I do understand people’s concerns but what we are doing here is trying to bring new supporters into Twenty20 matches in the light of the ECB revamping the competition for next season.
“Warwickshire will continue to play under that name in the two traditional formats, of course. This is all about trying to get the city behind the team in Twenty20s on Friday nights next summer.
“We want to bring new spectators, with a focus on attracting more Asian families and more businessmen and women, along to Edgbaston.
‘‘If we can attract people initially for Twenty20 then hopefully they will also then come to other forms of the game. We will be evaluating whether the name-change has worked, of course. At the end of next season we will certainly be in a position to do that.”
Conversations between council and club take place regularly, though, and any dialogue taking place at the moment is sure to touch upon the negative reaction to the name-change.
There are two questions. Should such a change be made, even if potentially only for the very short term, in the face of significant opposition from supporters?
And, more pertinent in the light of the financial situation: Will that opposition be serious and sustained enough to spoil the club’s efforts to attract bumper T20 crowds next year?
Warwickshire have set up a working party to exploit the format to the full next season.
It would appear deeply counter-productive to have people beavering away to attract new people to games while a move is made which, at a stroke, alienates 20 per cent of existing supporters and irritates many more.
“We are very much in a partnership with Warwickshire and talk with our partners all the time,” said Coun Ward.
“When Twenty20 was introduced into county cricket there was some resistance from cricket supporters, and I count myself among those.
‘‘But this is an exciting revamp by the ECB and we want to try to make the most of it."